Welcome back to Rosewood in The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse, the sequel to The Doldrums, published in 2015. In Nicholas Gannon’s first novel for kids ages 8 to 12, the reader meets Archer Helmsley, grandson to two of the most famous explorers who lives a very sheltered, unadventurous life. Oliver Glub, Archer’s best-friend and next-door neighbor, whose father runs the Doldrums Press. Then there’s Adelaide, who was new to the street, a girl with a wooden leg. Her leg, it was rumored, had it bitten off by a crocodile. Now, their second adventure begins following “the tiger incident,” an escapade that convinced Archer’s parents to send their son packing to boarding school, where they believe he will be safe and far away from trouble.
In The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse, Rosewood is getting colder by the minute, and the only explanation is the Helmsley Curse: as the Helmsleys approach Rosewood on their iceberg, everything gets colder, and the Rosewood Chronicle slanders the Helmsley name. So when Archer’s grandparents return to Rosewood, there are more rumors swirling in the air about whether or not they made up the story about being stranded on the iceberg. What might be closer to the truth is that the Helmsleys were banished, and Archer wants to help find proof.
However, the upside of the return of Ralph and Rachel Helmsley means that Archer and his friends are introduced to The Society, a large and mysterious explorer’s club. Archer and his friends are on the hunt for clues, which lead them to dangerous plants, such as Doxical Powder, narrow escapes with “the crooked man” who is most likely working for Mr. Birthwhistle, the president of the Society, and making friends with Kana Misra, a girl who vanished down a wishing well and now has prophetic abilities. Perhaps one of the most delicious parts of The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse is DuttonLicks, a sweets shop that is “three stories of pure confection,” and filled with every chocolate imaginable. Hopefully, among the holiday melee and snow covered streets, Archer, Oliver, and Adélaïde will be able to help unearth the truth behind what really happened to Archer’s grandparents.
Those young readers who read The Doldrums will enjoy meeting the new characters introduced in The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse, and they will hold their breath during the many close calls with danger that Archer and Co. encounter. What Gannon does best is write a friendship story, and his second middle grade novel follows suit. It’s funny, full of heart, and delicious chocolate.
Each of Gannon’s illustrations are intricately drawn, and there are multiple opportunities to discover hidden layers within the illustrations as well. Looking at these jewel box illustrations, readers will want to step through the page onto Howling Bloom street.
For children who are fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society and A Series of Unfortunate Events, Nicholas Gannon’s books are ones to get hooked on, featuring a new cast of characters, secrets, and mysteries to uncover in The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse.